Europa. Apr. 2021. 96p. tr. from French by Alison Anderson. ISBN 9781609456603. pap. $15. F
This novel begins with the sentence, “I always knew I would be sentenced to death.” The narrator, it turns out, is Jesus. What follows is a detailed account and philosophical analysis of Christ’s life through his own eyes. This very human Jesus exudes intimacy, wit, and dark humor, even as he describes being tried by Pontius Pilate and the witnesses who accuse him. The people he helped or cured show no gratitude: the formerly blind man complains about the ugliness of the world; the woman who endured exorcism finds everything boring; and the man who had leprosy no longer receives alms. Jesus describes Judas as a difficult person, tolerated by the other disciples, but who feels great love for Mary, Joseph, and Madeleine. The book’s most harrowing description centers on the pain of the crucifixion, where the concept of thirst dominates Jesus’s thoughts. To experience thirst, one must live, Nothomb writes; and love for a higher being becomes an unquenchable thirst.
VERDICT In this Prix Goncourt–winning novel, internationally acclaimed Belgian author Nothomb (Fear and Trembling) creates a masterpiece. While deceptively short, the book combines empathy and longing to create a fully realized characterization, wise beyond words. Highly recommended.
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